On the one hand as rookies, we come to our new situations with a certain wide-eyed anticipation, enthusiasm and excitement that, if bottled, could provide the elixir of hope to many a world-weary veteran. On the other hand, if we are to maintain our enthusiasm, stand tall and grow, we need some help along the way.
Recently, we held an election in this country. For one party, the results were quite surprising with whole communities voting out the Tried and True, (or otherwise, depending on your perspective), and voting in a number of very inexperienced people who will now represent them in parliament over the next four years.
Among this very green group are: a horticulturist (pardon the pun), a jewelry maker, a number of university students (one of whom is only nineteen years old) and a young woman who was, prior to being elected, an assistant manager in a university campus pub. Go figure.
Given their disparate occupations and limited exposure to the real world of politics, it occurs to me that these folks will need plenty of help along the way. And, the usual orientation program that tends to stop when the rules and policies have been conveyed (and the path to the washroom and other facilities clarified) is not going to cut it.
So what will?
How might this leader ensure that a gardener, jewelry maker, student and publican have the best chance of becoming functional, contributing, and successful in their newly elected roles?
Well, not being a parliamentarian or even a politician for that matter, I may be unqualified to comment. But, what the heck, I’ll give it shot and see what happens. After all, it can’t be that much different from introducing new employees into other kinds of organizations can it?
In fact, there are three steps that come to mind for me and here they are:
Step #I ~ Help Them Connect…
- To the Organizational Purpose: People new to any organization will feel a greater sense of belonging when they understand and believe in its purpose. Understanding purpose goes much deeper than the vision statement hanging the wall that no one seems to be able to remember. It strives to include people and help them see themselves as part of its fulfillment.
- To the Values on which the organization is built: Values provide the boundaries within which people in the organization may make decisions; take considered risks; and build strong relationships both inside and outside the firm. Boundaries constructed of values serve as the organizational conscience.
- To Internal and External Networks: Give new recruits exposure to those who are more established and experienced; people who can help them create and build their own reputation and enhance their ability to serve their constituents.
Step #II ~ Help Them Learn…
- Through Skill Building: This starts with the work of determining and acknowledging what each person brings to the new job in the way of transferrable skills; identifying what they need; and making specific plans for both maximizing on existing skill and building new skill.
- Through Mentoring: Help each of them find someone else in the organization to whom they can go for informal and confidential advice and guidance; a person with experience and knowledge; and one who is open to sharing it.
- Through Coaching & Monitoring: Get to know them well enough to be able to see what they are capable of (even when they don’t see it). Encourage them. Champion them. Ask for more. Hold them accountable for delivering on the promises they make to themselves and others. And, monitor their progress against the goals you have set together.
Step #III ~ Help Them Flourish
- By knowing when to let go: There just comes a time when the period of orientation ends; the mechanisms for building solid relationships and monitoring performance are in place and the cluster of new buds are ready to blossom. To do this well, they need air. Trust that you have done your job well and give them space to prove you right.
- By Using Mistakes as learning opportunities not weapons: People, whether seasoned Veterans or Newbies, do not respond well in environments of blame. Failure happens. You can make it useful by keeping blame out of the equation.
Of course when it comes to being a new Member of Parliament, I expect there is a whole raft of procedure and protocol that these newly minted MPs will have to learn. But, the steps I’ve outlined above seem, (to me anyway), to fit, no matter where they might be applied, in government or in a small business, because in the end, it’s about understanding human nature and building support mechanisms that work for people. What do you think? What have I left out?